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Isaiah 42:1–9 A Prophecy of Jesus Christ’s Mission and Ministry
“Isaiah speaks Messianically” (Latter-day Saint Bible chapter heading), meaning these verses prophesy concerning Jesus Christ.
My servant . . . will not quench a faltering wick. These words were fulfilled during Jesus Christ’s ministry, as Matthew has explicitly stated (see Matthew 12:17–20).
God calls Jesus “My servant” and “My chosen.” I have put My spirit upon him. Fulfilled, in part, with Jesus’s baptism (Matthew 3:16–17). He will bring justice to the nations. Without Jesus Christ and His gospel, many nations would be spiritually lawless.
He will not break a crushed reed. A reed is a marsh plant that requires much water to grow and to be strong. Symbolically, a crushed reed may represent a mortal who is physically or spiritually weak. Jesus, as the waters of life, helps such mortals. He will not quench a faltering wick. An oil lamp’s wick needs oil to burn brightly. Symbolically a faltering wick may represent a mortal who lacks spiritual light. Jesus Christ, the Anointed One (with oil), provides oil to such mortals so that they can enjoy light.
He will not falter nor be discouraged. Jesus Christ would not fail in His divine mission. islands will wait for His law. The “islands,” symbolizing the nations of the earth (and specifically, the Lord’s scattered, covenant people, see 1 Nephi 21:1), will seek out Jesus and wait for Him.
Isaiah’s testimony is placed here to compare the mortal Messiah (42:1–5) with God, the “Creator of the heavens” and the earth. They are one and the same! spirit to those who walk on it. It is unclear as to whether Isaiah refers to the Holy Spirit, which gives life to all creation (Doctrine and Covenants 88:5–13), or to the spirit that is found within our mortal tabernacle, which gives us animation and life.
I grasp your hand and I keep you. God the Father is a covenant maker and has grasped the hand of His Son in covenant. In fact, He states regarding Jesus Christ, “I give you for a covenant of the people.” Jesus Christ is the “covenant!” We make covenants in His name and He is the power that eternal covenants are valid and of “full force” throughout eternity. light to the nations. Jesus is the light (see 9:2; 49:8–9; Doctrine and Covenants 45:9).
to open blind eyes. This refers to both the physically and the spiritually blind. bring out the prisoner from prison. This refers to those who dwell in spirit prison (1 Peter 3:19–20; Doctrine and Covenants 76:73–74).
former things have come to pass, and I declare new things. All former prophecies given through the Lord’s servants came to pass in their own time (1 Nephi 20:3), and all other prophecies will yet be fulfilled in the future. God, who knows all things, the end from the beginning, states, “I tell you of them before they spring forth.”
Isaiah 42:10–17 A Hymn to Jehovah, the Redeemer
Employing a variety of symbols and poetic parallelisms, Isaiah invites earth’s peoples to sing “a new song” unto the Lord. The invitation is extended to all inhabitants, those who live at “the end of the earth,” in “the islands,” in “the wilderness,” in “cities,” in “villages,” and on “mountains,” and those who “go down to the sea” (42:10–11). Additionally, through various poetic expressions and devices, Isaiah 42:13–17 portrays the Lord’s might and power: “He roars” (42:13) like a lion, the king of beasts; He gasps “like a woman in labor” (42:14); and He lays waste “mountains,” turns “rivers into islands,” and “turns darkness into light.”
Sing a new song to the Lord. Singing a “new song” to Jehovah is a theme that is found several times in scripture (for example, Psalm 96:1; 98:1; 149:1; Revelation 5:9; Doctrine and Covenants 84:98). Each new song constitutes praises to Him because of His greatness and glory. end of the earth. A poetic expression that means all parts on the earth.
Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voices. Isaiah employs a poetic expression, although “wilderness” and “cities” represent the inhabitants who live in these places. top of the mountains. “Mountains” may refer to actual mounts and hills or, symbolically, to the Lord’s temples and holy places. Either way, Isaiah invites people to shout from the mountain tops.
like a warrior/like a man of war. Jehovah is portrayed as a great warrior and a “man of war” (see also Exodus 15:3). See also the discussion in 5:26–30. He roars. Isaiah portrays Jehovah as a roaring lion, one that “prevails over His enemies.”
I have kept silent a long time. The Lord holds His peace and restrains Himself from destroying the wicked (see also 64:12; Doctrine and Covenants 121:1–6). like a woman in labor. The Lord compares Himself to a woman in labor. He cries out, gasps, and pants. Perhaps He is pained because of the wickedness of the people, including those who worship idols and false gods (42:17).
I will lead the blind . . . ; I will turn darkness into light. The Lord leads us, the spiritually blind, down His paths, and He turns darkness into light for us.
They have turned backward. In contrast with the bling who are led by the Lord (v. 16), sinners and idolaters have turned their backs on God and they “trust in an idol” and they “say to molten images, ‘You are our gods.’” But the Lord states, “They are certainly ashamed.”
Isaiah 42:18–25 The Servant to the Blind
The “Lord’s servant” (42:19) in this section is Jesus Christ; He is also called “the messenger” (42:19). The “blind” (mentioned four times) and the “deaf” (mentioned twice) (42:18–19) symbolically represent those who are spiritually blind and deaf—those who do not hear the word of the Lord or see and comprehend sacred things. As Isaiah explains to the house of Israel, “You are a people who have seen many things, but you do not observe, opening the ears to hear, but you will not hear” (42:19). But the Lord promises the spiritually blind and the deaf that they can be healed: those who “hearken unto the messenger, the Lord’s servant” [who is Jesus Christ] will “be made perfect” (42:19).
You are a plundered and looted people. Isaiah directly addresses the house of Israel, whose conquering enemies have plundered them and put them in prison because “they have sinned,” “they were not willing to walk in [God’s] ways,” and they “did not heed His law” (42:24).
Who among them . . . will hearken and hear you? Who among Israel’s enemies will hear Israel’s cries to be saved from the plunderers and warring nations? No one!
who gave Jacob for a spoil and Israel to the plunderers? Isaiah asks this question and then he answers it with a second question: “Did not the Lord?” Because of Israel’s sins, the Lord permitted other nations to conquer and plunder His people.
He has poured fury upon them. Because of Israel’s rebellion, the Lord “has poured fury upon them . . . and the strength of battle,” meaning that He has allowed other nations to conquer and plunder His covenant people.
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